Arrests OK for expanded quarantine violators, says DOJ
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said police and other law enforcers may arrest anyone deemed flouting government orders to stay at home except for emergencies and work considered necessary, while the entire Luzon island is on an expanded quarantine.
Facing arrest included virus carriers evading quarantine, public utility drivers defying mass transport suspensions and those found outside their homes with no justifiable reason.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said violators may be charged with violating a two-year-old law on surveillance and response to epidemics and public health emergencies and with resisting or seriously disobeying authorities.
Republic Act 11332, or the 2018 Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases, considers as an offense the “non-cooperation of persons and entities” who either should “report or respond to notifiable diseases or health events of public concern,” or who have been identified as having the disease.
Under the law, the offender can be fined between P20,000 to P50,000 or imprisoned for at least a month to six months.
Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code imposes jail time of one to six months and a P500 fine on persons charged with “resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.”
Guevarra said law enforcers may invoke these two laws in case of “serious” resistance or refusal to cooperate with the government drive to limit public movement to prevent further transmission of the new SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
“The only point is, in these critical times, one’s serious resistance or willful disobedience to, or lack of cooperation with, the constituted authorities will expose one to prosecution,” he told reporters through a chat group late Monday (March 17).
“With regret, I have to bring it out, lest our people ignore the measures that we have taken to defeat a dangerous enemy,” he added.
He said the laws “will come into play only if there is really serious resistance or disobedience to our law enforcers.”
“So I plead with everyone to just simply give your cooperation. This is something that is temporary, this is for the good of all of us. The police officers supported by the Armed Forces are not the enemy, they are not there to harass us but to protect us,” he said.
Guevarra agreed that even potential or confirmed virus carriers who evade quarantine or hospital confinement may be charged with “non-cooperation” under RA 11332.
“Being sick does not exempt one from criminal liability,” he said on Tuesday (March 18).
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete also defended the impounding of taxi cabs that continued to ply Metro Manila on Tuesday.
He said public transport was suspended “to minimize mobility and prevent mass transmission of the disease.”
“Those who insist on operating these facilities and disobey orders from law enforcers to desist from further operations may be held to account under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code, among others,” Perete said.
When asked whether police may arrest people out in the streets for “non-essential” reasons, Perete said such individuals may be arrested under RA 11332.
“And if they seriously disobey or resist a person in authority, they may likewise be held liable under Article 151 of the Revised Penal Code,” he said.
Edited by TSB
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